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Monday, February 8, 2010

Jayhawks ‘on a mission’

Kansas wary of Longhorns despite recent slump

Kansas guard Sherron Collins gets the crowd going in the final minutes of Saturday's game against Nebraska.

Kansas guard Sherron Collins gets the crowd going in the final minutes of Saturday's game against Nebraska.

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Sue Ogrocki/AP Photo

Texas guard Damion James, right, shoots in front of Oklahoma forward Ryan Wright during their game Saturday in Norman, Okla. James leads the Longhorns into today’s Big Monday game against Kansas.

The long-awaited matchup between Kansas University and Texas is finally here.

But has today’s 8 p.m. Big Monday battle at Erwin Center lost some of its luster, considering the Longhorns, who last month were the country’s No. 1-ranked team, have opened Big 12 play with a so-so 5-3 record compared to KU’s perfect 8-0 mark?

“It doesn’t take away from the game,” KU senior Sherron Collins said of UT’s performance in league games. “It’s the Big 12. We’re on a mission. The mission is to try to win every one. One at a time, try to win the game.”

KU coach Bill Self said the game remains huge nationally, even though KU (22-1) holds a three-game lead in the loss column over (19-4) Texas, Texas A&M;, Kansas State and Missouri.

“I would assume they are thinking this is a game that gets them back,” Self said of the Longhorns. “Our hard games are left, the road games. Not that the others aren’t hard, but this thing is a long way from being over.”

KU still has to play at Texas, Texas A&M;, Oklahoma State and Missouri.

“I’m sure they think with our road schedule they can get some help as we have from teams who played Texas. It’s jumbled around. This thing is a long way from being over.

“They’ll be hungry to play, not because of the league race, but because it’s Kansas-Texas, just like we will be, too,” Self said.

UT enters with double-digit scorers in Damion James (17.8 ppg, 11.0 rpg), Avery Bradley (12.5 ppg, 52 assists, 33 turnovers) and Dexter Pittman (11.4 ppg, 6.2 rpg).

“Their team speed is great,” Self said. “I think Balbay (Dogas, 6-1 guard) is probably the best athlete in our league.”

He averages 4.3 points a game while dishing 101 assists against 36 turnovers.

“I think Damion is having a player-of-the-year-type year. They can throw bigs at you, guys who can score and who are fast. Handling pressure and rebounding the ball will be two keys,” Self said.

UT averages 43.8 boards a game to its opponents’ 36.5. KU averages 41.5 rebounds a game to foes’ 33.9.

“They’ll be aggressive. They are at home (where UT is 12-1). They’ve got the No. 1 team in the country coming in. They’ll be ready for us. It’ll be a man’s game. It’ll be fun,” KU’s Collins said.

He expects an energized UT crowd. KU is 0-3 at Erwin Center in the Self era.

Cleaning the glass: Texas’ James this season passed Nick Collison as the Big 12’s career leader in rebounds.

“One thing he always tells me is, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to do anything else, but I know I’m going to rebound,’’’ UT coach Rick Barnes told the Austin American Statesman.

“When the lights are bright, that’s when the stars come out. I care about winning,” noted James.

Dexter Pittman admits it’s sometimes tempting to relax knowing James will clean up the glass.

“I play with a great rebounder,” Pittman told the Austin paper. “I know that if I box my man out, Damion will get the rebound. It’s his job.”

James, like KU big man Cole Aldrich, is an exceptional student. He has a 3.25 grade-point average.

Big target: Pittman provides an imposing presence at 6-foot-10, 290-pounds.

“An incredible presence who makes you adjust,” Kansas State coach Frank Martin said after Pittman hit for just six points with seven boards in a 71-62 loss to the Wildcats on Jan. 18 in Manhattan.

Super watch party: The Jayhawks made it to Austin Sunday and watched the first half of the Super Bowl while dining at the team hotel. Some remained in the room to watch the rest of the game, and some returned to their rooms.

Plano prep visits: Zach Peters, a 6-foot-7 small forward from Prestonwood High in Plano, Texas, made an unofficial recruiting visit to KU for Saturday’s Nebraska game. Rivals.com reports that Peters, who is in the Class of 2012, has a list that includes KU, Kentucky, Texas and North Carolina. His high school teammate, Julius Randle, also made the trip.

Comments

SpiderJohn 9 years, 5 months ago

I am in Austin, where are all the KU fans meeting that aren't going to the game.

Ben Kane 9 years, 5 months ago

I'm the president, vice president, party planner, and entire membership of the Lexington KY Jayhawk fan club.

As always, the watch party will be at my house. Drinks are provided but you are on your own for security outside of my house from the many drunken Kentucky fans who always have time to tell you how much better their team is.

kuproud96 9 years, 5 months ago

The Ku fans will be at Shultz's Garden at 5pm.

Michael Leiker 9 years, 5 months ago

Balbay is the best athlete in the league? That's some serious coach speak. Dude got worked by OU on Saturday.

bradynsdad 9 years, 5 months ago

the good thing about this game regardless of texas' record is there is no underdog so both teams should play pretty evenly. defense needs to make balbay take the outside shots and put texas on the free throw line.

Tony Bandle 9 years, 5 months ago

There are four scenarios for this game:

1] Kansas wins in dominating fashion. 2] Kansas wins in a sloppy, free-for-all. 3] Kansas loses in a heartbreakingly tight, well played contest. 4] Kansas loses in convincing fashion.

The current mood in the country is, based on the last three games Kansas has struggled [although true KU fans realize how tough each of these teams were], maybe the Jayhawks are overrated.

I have a fear that the "T" schools will give us trouble this year...Tennessee [loss], @ Texas, @ Texas A&M. Throw in trips to Missouri and Okie State and we fans have to realize this season is far from over.

Unless the Hawks improve their game tonight, I'm afraid I see a second "L" on the horizon.

Please, someone talk me out of this funk!!!

Ryan Wilson 9 years, 5 months ago

have faith. You are forgetting that we have one thing no other team has this year in college basketball. Two leaders in Bill Self and Sherron Collins who both have championship rings. That in itself is something that can carry us through the toughest games. For example at K-State this year. It will be okay. If we were to lose to any of these teams though I would hope it will be Texas A&M, because they aren't a rival and Mark Turgeon is a stud.

mi_familia 9 years, 5 months ago

The balbay comment is definitely a head scratcher. Don't get me wrong, he is athletic, scrappy, quick, and can leap, but he is no threat on the offensive end for anything. On the defensive end he handchecks and pushes. If anyone, Avery Bradley is more athletic than Balbay. Maybe if Elijah got minutes, he'd prove to be just as athletic, too.

Oh well, at least we get to sag off Balbay and his terrible outside shooting tonight.

Mike Kendall 9 years, 5 months ago

Chuckberry32------

Good luck with the party at your house! I will be there in spirit! Rock Chalk!

Steve Brown 9 years, 5 months ago

Oak, I'm no help. In fact I see only options 2-4 hoping for #2.

I arranged to be in Austin for our last two contests and the Horns do have that home town magic arena and tonight they will be on fire. Talented we are, yet still young, we play plenty of soph & newbies.

Erwin is not good place for young visitors- the shooter's eye has poor lighting and bright light sign backgrounds. We likely won't shoot for better percentage so we must handle the ball. Avoid the silly TO like we got last few games from not onlyTT but also BM & Sherron.

James is stud on both ends. Glad Durrant is gone.

Which Taylor will we get tonight, flashes of brilliance or 'where's he going?'

Steve Brown 9 years, 5 months ago

Maybe HCBS is in disinformation mode wanting Balbay, over James, to jack up a few long ones and take sets off to rest on D.....

bradynsdad 9 years, 5 months ago

lighthawk your comment about TT is hilarious and very true. just like k state though cole will get the calls even with it being in austin. he developes a great relationship with officials and some have even commented on how they like him. bradley will want to show x he is better, and for the love dont bother picking up balbay until he gets at least four feet inside the three point line. maybe a little sagging defense.

d_prowess 9 years, 5 months ago

I hate to think the bad thoughts, but does anyone else wonder when Marcus Morris is going to have his bad conference game? He is still only a Sophomore after all, and just can't make myself believe that he will keep up his current level of play for the rest of the regular season. I really hope it isn't tonight against UT since we need him against their size, but I feel like it has to be coming, right?

JHWK 9 years, 5 months ago

Glad we'll have some good Jayhawks representing the rest of us fans tonight! Be loud, friends!

As for those who are doubting - be brave, Jayhawks! This team has shown their true colors in close ones lately, and if they all remembered to pack their men's game, and not the one they took to Tenn, we should give 'em hell!

X has folded against stiff competition on the offensive end and coughed the ball up badly against NU (can't rely on him anymore, I'm afraid), but TT has picked his game up and shut his mouth. Two things I was unsure would happen this year.

Cole is relishing the challenge tonight, I'm sure, as is Sherron. Those two do not believe they will lose their individual matchups, and MarcM has his best test yet tonight on DJames. If he takes his 'swagger' we've heard so much about into Austin, this could really be his coming out party!

Brady will be Brady, and he and Collins will hopefully have studied the OU game from this weekend and see that Balbay can be made to look lost. Brady has been the (sorry for this) X-factor the last games that should have been the reason X joined the team. But until X learns to create offense inside the 3-pt line, he's just another guard.

Looking forward to tonight! Rock Chalk!

Justin Daniel 9 years, 5 months ago

Lighthawk - I agree either 2 or 4. Before Sat. I probably would have leaned toward 2, but after the loss to OU Texas will be motivated more than ever. Texas really needs this more than KU (a home game, lost 4 of their last 6, to remain a top 4 seed in the Big 12 tournament), which is why I think we will see something closer to scenario 4. Hopefully, Collins, Cole, and Crew will prove me wrong but look for a Texas sized wake up call for the boys tonight.

d_prowess 9 years, 5 months ago

Given what UT has done over the last 6 games, what are the chances that they fold early if we can get out to a quick 10 lead within the first 5 minutes? I know they are at home, but I have to think that team and their fans are at a fragile point and fighting some serious self-doubt right now.

Ron Prichard 9 years, 5 months ago

I take a completely different view on this than many. I do think Texas comes to play tonight and will give KU everything they will want. However, even though KU looked like it slept through most of the last two games, I think the Hawks come out with an intensity we haven't seen in a couple of games. I think this will resemble the KSU game in intensity and physicality. I don't see Texas winning big, nor do I think KU will win in a blowout. I think this is a tight game to the end. Self was right when he said he didn't expect KU to play well last week. As much as we want to make these kids into superheroes, they are still just 18-22 year old kids and they just had a great win in Manhattan and were looking ahead to Texas. Colorado and Nebraska were afterthoughts and it almost bit them in the nose. Still, when challenged, you saw what KU could do in spurts. I think we will play with that kind of intensity from start to finish tonight and win or lose, this one should be fun to watch.

(And for those who say the team should be intense for every game against every opponent, look at the fans. You can tell when the crowd expects to win in a blowout they aren't near as loud or energetic. Don't even try to tell me the players don't feel that, too. It's human nature no matter how much you try to avoid it.)

okiedave 9 years, 5 months ago

My concern is the officiating tonight. I think UT is going to get the breaks on the calls, being the home team and getting some love frrom the refs. I think the officiating is going to decide the game down the stretch. Marcus is going to be in early foul trouble if not careful and the Refs are not going to give Aldrich any breaks on his blocked shots. Unless Collins has a big game like last year against OU or "X" steps up, it is going to be an difficult game to watch.

Joe Baker 9 years, 5 months ago

Balbay will never take a shot against KU. Balbay will never do anything against KU. Balbay will not be a factor tonight. If Balbay is a factor, KU deserves to lose.

If X comes out of his funk, this needs to be the game!! Anyone agree?? Xavier Henry, come on down! You are the next answer for UT nastiness.

We can win this game if KU plays smart and under control. I guarantee you the horny cows will want to speed up KU shooters for jump shots. UT will play that crazy "Stripes" type game. Remember in the movie Stripes when they hit the obstacle course? Texas will play exactly like that scene. Why not? UT has nothing to lose tonight and everything to gain. Someone on UT's roster will get lucky and come out of nowhere to be the one to answer KU's challenge. I don't see it being Pittman or James so much. I don't really even think Avery will be much of an answer. I see a Johnson or Hamilton sneaking out of obscurity to be an answer.

Rock Chalk Beat UT!

JayhawkBigXII 9 years, 5 months ago

My Crystal Balls Prediction:

KU...71 UT....67

Tonight's game will be as gruesome as the KSU game.

It will be decided by KU's stingy defense, and UT foul trouble. KU will also be in foul trouble, but will win by vastly improved FT shooting.

Player of the game..... Marcus Morris.

ku_foaf 9 years, 5 months ago

Hmm... KU not always playing to potential, but winning. UT not always playing to potential, but losing ...

If UT is up for the game, it would be tough for anyone to beat them. If we are not up, we will probably get beat. If both teams are up, it's going to be a great game!

hawkward1 9 years, 5 months ago

In the words of George Carlin "Backwards words say to used I. Again go I there. Sh#! oh." Now that I have your attention, KU by 10.

Joe Baker 9 years, 5 months ago

Oh they will hack-a-hawk!

FTs, FTs, FTs, FTs- HUGE!

I think we'll overcome. I just don't see UT turning their entire season around in this one game. I think it's time we change this Erwin Center record.

Rock Chalk

Joe Baker 9 years, 5 months ago

Oakville- Sorry for not picking:

I pick 2 minus the sloppy! I don't think we'll play sloppy. I do think it will be a free for all. It's going to be crazy in that center. There will be some mistakes, but not sloppy.

lincase 9 years, 5 months ago

I believe it will come down to free throw shooting, and that neither team will win.

KUTPO 9 years, 5 months ago

For my two cents, I think Bill Self gives KU the edge over Ricky Barney. Barnes in my opinion is just not a good coach. ( I guess I just don't respect how he handles the talent he has,) but he can recruit because it is "Texas." KU by a couple at the end.

Steve Gantz 9 years, 5 months ago

If Colt McCoy can bounce back from his injury Texas might have a chance.

Jack Wilson 9 years, 5 months ago

This is the defining game so far. If we win, no matter what the margin, it proves we are a national title contender. If not, it highlights all of the negatives that we have seen in the past 3 games, at Tennessee. It calls everything into question.

However, a win .. no matter how we win .. will reinforce that his team, well, wins. And it should provide a big dose of confidence going forward.

KU 78 Tex 72

Steve Brown 9 years, 5 months ago

Days like this I miss Brandon, Shady, DBlock Russ Rob but I've got to get over it, they are gone and our tank is not empty.

Cole is a beast, healthier and more aggressive than ever, and we won't need J Graves to spell him as we have Keif & Jeff W, even fresh frosh TRob can come in if needed.

We don't have Brandon yet Marcus is a stud on both ends and X finds his shot along with TT and Brady...not a bad group.

Of course the icing on the cake is Sherron, senior talent and willing to put a branding iron in BarneyBull. Lace 'em up and jump ball.

Yakihawk 9 years, 5 months ago

ESPN Classic is showing previous KU - UT Big XII Championship games today. I forgot that it only took Julian Wright 5 steps and two dribbles to go the length of the court!

dynamitehawk 9 years, 5 months ago

Hawkward! Thanks for the George Carlin reference... My favorite George Carlin routine was his "Pussification of America". Instead of Mailman lets say, "Person Person".

emillasap 9 years, 5 months ago

If Brady and Tyrel play significant minutes, then Kansas has no chance. Those two are adequate intramural subs at best.

Signed,

All those idiot posters with a ridiculous take.

hawkward1 9 years, 5 months ago

Predicted KU by 10 and it was 12. Gravy.

Dan Pawlowski 9 years, 5 months ago

What a bunch of negative waves. With fans like you guys its amazing we have a winning tradition. Do me a favor. Next time you folks have so many negative thoughts, Keep them to yourselves.

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